Filed under: Say What?
Are Your Antibacterials Safe & Effective? The FDA’s Not Sure

Woman Washing Hands

If you’re like most consumers, you probably have some antibacterial soap in your home and you might also assume it’s safe for you and your family and effectively does what it says — kills germs. Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) admitted they’re not quite sure about the most widely used germ-killing chemical, triclosan, which is used in roughly 75% of antibacterial soaps. And, according to USA Today, to find out if triclosan is safe and effective, the FDA “issued a proposed rule requiring manufacturers to prove that their antibacterial cleaners are safe and more effective than plain soap and water. If companies can’t show that their products are safe and effective, the soaps would have to be reformulated or relabeled to remain on the market.”

We’re thrilled at the news and have been touting the toxic truth about triclosan for years. Triclosan has been on our Honestly Free Guarantee from the get-go because stays in the environment for long periods of time and poses health risks like hormone disruption. It’s also found in the bodies of the majority of the U.S. population. In 2009, the CDC found triclosan in the urine of 75 percent of Americans. Aside from the dangers, this isn’t the first time the lack of triclosan’s efficacy has been pointed out. All the way back in 2005, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel concluded that antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap and water at removing germs.

So, let’s get rid of it, right?

Since antibacterial soaps have not been shown to be any more effective than regular soap at preventing illness, it’s a completely unnecessary chemical exposure. The real key to avoiding colds and flus is frequent hand washing. Use a simple, safe hand soap and rub hands vigorously for 15-20 seconds. An easy way to ensure you’re doing it long enough is to sing the ABCs a couple times (make it a learning moment for your child, too!).

When you can’t get to a sink, use a safe hand sanitizer — something plant-based without toxic additives or questionable synthetic ingredients. Honest uses ethyl alcohol as an active ingredient — it’s eco-friendly, proven to be extremely effective, and as safe as it gets for this specific product category. (Note: Hand sanitizers are only effective on relatively clean hands, they can’t cut through dirt. Use wipes to rub off any dirt first.)

Learn more about reasons to avoid antibacterials (beyond triclosan) and the top two ways to battle bugs by reading our recent blog post.

What do you think about this latest news from the FDA about antibacterial products? Let us know in the comments!

What is Limonene Oil?


This is part of our ongoing series to help consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Limonene (Orange) Oil

What it is: Limonene oil is an essential oil from the rind of an orange fruit. Unlike the extraction processes of most essential oils, it’s a byproduct of the manufacture of orange juice. Waste not, want not!

What it does: Limonene oil can be used for a wide variety of purposes. At full strength, it’s a powerful solvent, cleanser, and degreaser. When buffered (pH-balanced) and diluted, it helps clear skin problems. And, because limonene is what gives citrus its unmistakable scent, it’s also used in natural food flavorings, fragrances, and aromatherapy.

Why we use it: Cleaning can be an annoying chore. So, we try to make it better not only with safer products, but also by using natural scents that elicit a little delight. In aromatherapy, limonene lifts your mood, calms your body, and creates a general sense of peacefulness — making our floor cleaner refreshingly pleasant.

Why we’re featuring it today: The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database ranks limonene as a 6 and then details a litany of potential health impacts like immunotoxicity and developmental toxicity. They also highlight the fact that “upon storage and exposure to sunlight and air, limonene degrades to various oxidation products which act as skin and respiratory irritants and sensitizers.” Sounds pretty scary!

But here’s the deal: The evidence EWG cites in regards to toxicity is primarily from occupational and high-level exposures, not typical home usage. Most essential oils and even things like salt and lemon juice can demonstrate acute or chronic toxicity when tested at high exposure levels. On the flip side of the coin, lower levels and different exposure routes can sometimes prove beneficial to health. Limonene is actually currently being studied for cancer-fighting benefits when it’s consumed in low doses. Clearly, exposure routes and levels are key to truly understanding the chemicals that make up our world.

The issue of oxidized limonene being a skin and respiratory irritant and sensitizer is a slightly more valid concern. But there’s a simple solution: avoid using rancid limonene oil.

You can rest assured we use fresh limonene oil in our products, and we also take several precautions to protect the quality of our formulations like:

  • Making them in small batches, so they don’t sit on shelves for too long.

  • Storing them away from heat and sunlight.

  • Adding antioxidants like rosemary leaf oil to keep the limonene fresh.

All in all, you’re getting all the amazing benefits of natural limonene oil without any of the risks.

Still have questions? Let us know in the comments. We’re happy to help!

Additional References:

“Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professional,s” by Maria Lis-Balchin

“Alternative Solvents for Green Chemistry,” by Francesca M. Kerton, Ray Marriott

What is Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate?

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

This is part of our ongoing series to help consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

What it is: Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is derived from sarcosine, a natural amino acid found in the human body and just about every type of biological material from animals to plants. Honest’s sarcosine is made from coconut oil.

What it does: Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is a cleanser and foam booster that helps with the effectiveness and feel of our toothpaste.

Why we use it: We chose sodium lauroyl sarcosinate because it’s very mild, but also very effective. What’s more, it’s included in the Handbook of Green Chemicals and is also Whole Foods Premium Body Care approved — two stamps of approval that validate our confidence in the safety and sustainability of this ingredient.

Why we’re featuring it today: A customer recently asked us if sodium lauroyl sarcosinate was anything like sodium lauryl sulfate, so we thought we’d clarify the issue for anyone who may share the same concern.

Here’s the 411:

They may have the same initials (SLS), but sodium lauroyl sarcosinate and sodium lauryl sulfate are NOT the same thing. Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is only similar to sodium lauryl sulfate in that they’re both surfactants, but that’s about where it ends. A comprehensive safety assessment published in the International Journal of Toxicology deemed that sodium lauroyl sarcosinate was not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful, and had no mutagenic, irritating, or sensitizing effects. It ranks a little low in EWG’s database because there are nitrosamine contamination concerns. Nitrosamines are a class of chemicals that are almost all carcinogenic, so this is a valid concern — but there’s no need to worry with our products. The sodium lauroyl sarcosinate raw ingredient we use has been continually tested for nitrosamines, which NO detectable amounts were found. Furthermore, we don’t use any ingredients that could interact with our sodium lauroyl sarcosinate to create nitrosamines. All in all, there’s nothing to worry about.

Have any additional questions about this ingredient? Let us know in the comments. We’re happy to answer!

For more information about nitrosamines, check out this reader-friendly article from The Linus Pauling Institute.

What is Sodium Metasilicate?

Sodium Metasilicate

This is part of our ongoing series to help consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Sodium Metasilicate

What it is: Sodium metasilicate is created by fusing sodium carbonate with silica sand at about 1400 degrees celsius. Three quick facts for your scientific enjoyment:

  • If you heat baking soda (a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate) in a 200°F oven for about an hour, it releases carbon dioxide and water and turns into sodium carbonate.

  • Silica sand is quartz that’s been broken down into tiny granules through years and years and years of wind and water erosion. People purify this sand for commercial use to make things like glass.

  • How hot does it need to be to fuse these two elements? Hot, hot, hot!! To give you a sense of how hot 1400 degrees celsius is — lava, by comparison, is typically 700 to 1200 degrees.

What it does: Sodium metasilicate enhances cleaning performance and efficiency primarily by softening water.

Why we use it: We chose sodium metasilicate because it’s eco-friendly, mild (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists it as a GRAS direct food substance), and also a very effective alternative to phosphates.

Why we’re featuring it todayEWG’s Skin Deep Database ranks it as a 3 primarily because sodium metasilicate can be an irritant to skin, eyes, and lungs. Other sites point out that being a sodium base, it has a high pH level and can be corrosive. Still, it’s important to note one very important fact:

  • The potential toxic effects of sodium metasilicate all appear to be due to alkalinity. Therefore, in the appropriate formulation, it can be neutralized with acids rendering the solution non-toxic.

Honest is always extremely attentive to the safety of the final formulation, so you can trust the products we make with this ingredient (currently, just dishwasher pods) are safe for their intended use.

Still have questions about sodium metasilicate? Let us know in the comments! Want to learn more about any other ingredient? Share that, too! We’re happy to help empower you to be a savvy, informed consumer.

Learn more:

What is Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride?

Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride

This is part of our ongoing series to help consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride

What it is: This ingredient has a real mouthful of a name, but it’s botanical origin is the humble “guar,” or cluster bean. More specifically, it’s a water-soluble, derivative of guar gum — another great plant-derived ingredient.

What it does: Hydroxypropyl guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride gently conditions hair and prevents static.

Why we use it: We chose hydroxypropyl guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride because it’s very mild, but also very effective. In our search for the best ingredients, we noticed this one was widely used with great success in Europe and had relatively recently become more accessible in the United States. In a 2012 meta-analysis safety assessment examining the body of evidence regarding toxicokinetics, short-term and repeated dose toxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, genotoxicity, carcinogenicity, and dermal irritation and sensitization, the Cosmetics Ingredient Review Expert Panel deemed hydroxypropyl guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride and a handful of its cousins in the galactomannan family as safe for use.

It’s also approved for use in ECOCERT Certified cosmetics — a stamp of approval that gives us great confidence in the safety and sustainability of this ingredient. (ECOCERT is based in Europe and is one of the largest organic certification organizations in the world, conducting supply chain inspections in over 80 countries!)

Why we’re featuring it today: We’ve seen an increasing amount of sources that recommend avoiding ingredients you can’t pronounce. It’s a great starting point for trying to better understand what’s inside your products, but it certainly doesn’t mean that anything difficult to pronounce is inherently bad. So, we decided to showcase one of our most multi-syllabic ingredients to highlight that fact.

Fear of the unknown is basic human nature, but researching and learning and familiarizing yourself with what’s unknown is far more productive and empowering.